(OAK PARK) – A recent tribute to local men who have died at the hands of local law enforcement officers was painted on the wall of the Guild Theater in Oak Park. However, the artists never asked the property owner for permission, and now the mural could have serious ramifications.
Tracy Stigler, the president of St. Hope Development Company, said he had to spend $500 to use a high-powered water hose to remove paintings on the south side of the historic theater.
The removal of the painted faces kicked off a controversy. Stigler, however maintains that the mural — or graffiti to some — was placed there by an unknown party or individual without St. Hope Development’s consent.
Some members of the community are upset with the decision to remove the artwork.
“My friends, whoever they are, decided they wanted to paint a little art on the side of the Guild,” Stigler told The OBSERVER. “It’s just the fact that somebody thinks it’s OK to paint your (building) without permission. Nobody’s taking responsibility for it, but people are saying ‘It’s a good thing’ and ‘How dare you?’”
The mural included depictions of Daizon Flenaugh, Ryan Ellis, Adrien Ludd, Joseph Mann, Desmond Phillips, Lorenzo Cruz and Mikel McIntyre. The words “#Rest In Power” was written above the images.
Adrianne Hall, also an administrator for St. Hope Development, said that it’s “the company’s policy to take care of any graffiti or vandalism right away.” Ms. Hall also said homeless people in the area told her they observed “three people” painting on the building, but thought nothing of it.
Ms. Hall also said there were candles and flowers lined up against the wall, set up like a shrine.
Also, the mural was not “painted over” as it has been reported by other media outlets, she said.
“Not only that we did not give permission to put it there … this is private-owned property. Not public property,” she said. “At first, we were not sure why it was put there.”
Stigler said the action is costing more than it’s worth. He was still trying to get the wall cleaned up as of Wednesday. They were able to remove the paint, however, the side of the theater has been noticeably damaged. If the cost exceeds $500, it would be ruled as felony vandalism in the letter of the law.
Felony vandalism is addressed under California Penal Code 594. Penal Code 594 becomes a criminal offense when the damage to the vandalized property is $400 or greater. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office can decide to charge an individual or group with vandalism as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Stigler is not pursuing conviction.
The Guild Theater is considered a treasure in the historical neighborhood of Oak Park. It is the last of the early 20th century motion picture houses that first opened in 1915. It was originally called the Victor Theater.
After many changes through the decades, St. Hope Development Company purchased the property, restored it, and reopened it in 2003. It is now one of the premier entertainment facilities that showcase films, lectures, and live performances.
Because of the Guild Theater’s background, Stigler said its significance could be protected by historic preservation laws, standards, and guidelines. If so, depiction of the faces, paintings or murals on the building may not be allowed.
Stigler said he has also learned that Black Lives Matter Sacramento intends to have a rally at the Guild Theater on Nov. 18 in support of the painted images.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento responded on its Facebook page: “The mural was also bringing Blackness back into a community that is rapidly erasing Black history and Black culture through gentrification. Just a few days later it was removed.”
By Antonio R. Harvey
OBSERVER Staff Writer